Aargh!!!

I hopped on the Skytrain this morning, all inspired to write a post for my blog, but the darn notebook battery was dead.  What the…?  I am sure it had some juice the other day.  How does it go completely dead on me?  Whatever!

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What would Jane Jacobs say…?

I was passing through the Surrey Central Skytrain Station the other day when I noticed something a little unusual.  Underneath the escalators near the bus loop, there is a park bench and a lamp.  This would be normal enough, except that it is all enclosed by a high, wrought iron fence.

The juxtaposition is a little strange – you are simultaneously invited into this welcoming space while emphatically being told to keep out.  Now, why the park bench and lamp are so precious as to be in need of protection was not immediately evident to me.  There was no obvious indication of a gateway to Narnia, or anything…

This got me thinking of how we use space in and around many of our Skytrain Stations.  It seems that the goal is to move people through – no loitering.  This makes sense from a transportation point of view, but not necessarily from a community planning point of view.  We have unintentionally created spaces that are largely empty and, for many people, a little intimidating outside of peak commuting times.

Jane Jacobs advocated for mixed use urban spaces, and for densification as a means to create critical mass capable of sustaining vibrant communities.  The area around the Broadway and Commercial Skytrain Stations come closest to this ideal in my mind.  With the mixed use space (commercial, office and, nearby, residential) it has achieved somewhat of a town square feel.  Diverse people hang out, shop, or go for coffee in and around that corner at all hours (excellent for people watching, let me tell you).  A sense of safety is maintained by what Jacob’s called “eyes upon the street”.

Contrast this with most of the other Skytrain Stations on any given evening.  They are largely abandoned aside from some rather shady looking folks and, rightly or wrongly, they instill a sense of anxiety.  It’s true that urban development does not happen overnight, but we may want to pay closer heed to Jacob’s recommendations by creating more welcoming, multi-use spaces as these transit hubs evolve over time.

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Off limits bench at Surrey Central

C’est le metro, boulot, dodo…

I learned that expression in my university French class, and it has always stuck with me.  Basically, it means “it’s the train, work, sleep”, and this expression perfectly captures the tedium that can settle in on daily life.  Maybe I need a vacation…

Anyway, I commute to work on the Skytrain, Vancouver’s much loved and much loathed rapid transit system.  One advantage over driving is that I am a much nicer person when I get to work.  The other is that I hate wasting time, and I find all kinds of ways to use the hour long ride each way.  Blogging is perfect for the commute!

In this category, my plan is to capture dispatches from the Skytrain – interesting happenings (when they occur), what’s going on along the route, etc…  Let’s see how much content I can come up with between point A and point B…

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Courtesy of rumble1973, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License